We’ve made nearly 1,000 Firefly connections, but we are incredibly proud of the number 13.
Why? This is the number of women who have been Firefly Guides, lighting the way through breast cancer, for the entire 5 years that Firefly’s been in existence.
Here’s a few more numbers that go along with these 13 Fireflies who have been Guides for 5 years:
- They have each completed 3 hours of training in peer mentoring
- They have participated in 3 hours of bi-annual Ongoing Guide Training sessions, seminars, and events that support their peer mentoring practice. Their combined total of Ongoing Guide Training time adds up to 117 hours!
- They have had a total of 123 matches between them!
- They have been breast cancer survivors for a combined total of 129 years!
Besides these impressive numbers, the Guides (like ALL Firefly Guides) have given their time to help other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. They’ve listened, they’ve offered comfort, they’ve been a light through the darkness of breast cancer.
In the final installment of our Caught! Fireflies in Action blog series, we want to honor the work of this “baker’s dozen” of Fireflies by sharing a couple of their favorite moments, insights and how Firefly has changed them.
When I was matched with Nan (not her real name) our relationship grew via phone calls. I’d call her, she’d call me. We connected quickly beyond our shared age, stage, and diagnosis, and we both looked forward to our once- or twice-weekly check-ins to talk about treatment, nutrition, faith, my dogs, and our grandkids.
Last fall, when Nan’s cancer spread to her bones and she had recovered from hip surgery, we decided it was time to meet face-to-face. At her invitation, I packed up a simple homemade meal for her family and one of my two small dogs (for some extra love at Nan’s request) and drove to meet my Firefly Sister.
When treatments where not keeping up with the spread of the cancer and the pain from spinal fractures and liver involvement became too difficult to manage, Nan made the decision to stop treating and enter hospice at home. She invited me for another visit and requested I bring my dogs. With my 14.5-year-old love dog on her lap, I read Nan a section of a book I brought along, written by another breast cancer friend. And before I left, I read her a blessing, and said a brief prayer for her and her family. We parted ways with a long, gentle hug, knowing it might be our last.
One month later, on a cold February day, Nan passed away. I miss her, but will always remember how she lived well through the pain and discouragement that came with a metastatic diagnosis. Mostly, I will remember how she chose not to look at her experience as a fight but as an opportunity to surrender, to trust God and seek His will for her each day in the midst of her suffering. While we can no longer chat on a weekly basis, I think of her often with love and feel the joy and strength of my Firefly Sister shining on.
My favorite moment as a Firefly guide was when one of the wonderful women I was matched with wrote a poem about our relationship and what it meant to her that I was there for her and asked her questions to help guide her through treatment.
A powerful experience for me as a Guide was finding out that one of my matches who had been through chemo and radiation was diagnosed as Stage IV shortly afterwards. When asked if she wanted to be matched with a Guide who was living with Stage IV, she said no, that she wanted to stay with me as her Guide because we had a very strong bond. When she passed away I felt like a piece of myself had died and I miss her every day.
Being a Firefly Guide changed me. I have never been comfortable with the “Rah, rah, let’s celebrate your journey” type, since I am rather introverted. I have learned from my matches that many of them felt the same way, and many preferred to communicate through emails and messages and phone calls instead of face to face. It’s like Firefly gave me permission to be me and not have to conform to what others think about how you get through cancer. I have learned to listen, to “hold space” for the wonderful women I have been privileged to be matched with. I have learned that I can give advice simply by asking the right question and encouraging them to think about what they want from their care team and their family caregivers. And I have learned that we all need someone to just talk to about things, to laugh with and to sometimes cry with and not be constantly reminded of cancer. And truthfully, I get more back than I can ever explain to someone who hasn’t been there.
I joined Firefly because I want to help someone else’s journey be easier. The women I have mentored don’t necessarily tell you how you’ve impacted them, so I was incredibly moved when Jenny contacted me after my first match to let me know that my Firefly Sister had told her that I had truly made a difference in her life and her breast cancer experience. That one-to-one connection is so necessary at the most vulnerable time in your life.
You do something – like being a Firefly Guide – and you don’t really think you’re making much of a difference in the lives of the women you mentor. But at Illuminight 2018, one of my Firefly Sisters shared her story and said the nicest things about me.
(Unbeknown to Jeanne, Firefly Sisterhood keeps transcripts of these Illuminight speeches, and the following was said that evening by Jeanne’s Firefly Sister:
“When I opened my front door to meet my Guide I saw a beautiful, healthy, smiling, vivacious woman who was only a year and a half from having experienced almost the same diagnosis and treatment that I was about to undergo. Words cannot truly express what I felt in that moment. I was completely lifted up. I saw hope. Hope that I could see and hold onto as she helped guide me along the new path in front of me. She offered information – most of which my doctors had already provided but my overwhelmed mind failed to receive or remember. She offered me tips on how to minimize the side effects of treatment. She gave me the ‘heads up’ on what to expect as my treatment progressed. She encouraged me to ask questions of my medical team that I may not have otherwise thought of asking. Most of all she listened as I pondered the ‘what if’ questions. ‘What if this doesn’t work’ or ‘What if this happens during treatment’. I would not have been able to get through the breast cancer experience as well as I have – physically, mentally or emotionally if it weren’t for my Firefly Sisterhood Guide.”)
To hear that – well, it was a highly, highly rewarding and emotional moment. I cried in public!
To these 13 Guides and ALL of our Firefly Guides, we are grateful. Incredibly grateful. Thank you for all you do! If we had a champagne flute, we would make a toast to 5 more years of incredible matchmaking! Cheers!
Written and compiled by Amy Tix, breast cancer survivor, Firefly staffer, and 5-year Firefly Guide. Being a Guide reminds me of how far I’ve come and how strong I am . . . only because I have been able to lean on the shoulders of those around me and, in turn, be that shoulder to lean on for others.
“One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing
is what we do for others.”